By: Gracie Covarrubias, DePaul University organizational and multicultural communication major ’18 and Career Center communications assistant

Scoping out potential contacts on LinkedIn can feel like a never-ending quest—the options are literally endless. There is, however, an art to finding that perfect connection on LinkedIn and sparking a conversation. Check out our guide to connecting with alumni on LinkedIn.

The Search

Crafting a LinkedIn search requires a few critical filters. Start off by typing in ‘DePaul University’ in the search bar. Once you’ve clicked on DePaul’s official page, click on the ‘see alumni’ button and you will be presented with a detailed breakdown of alumni interests, places of employment and fields of study.

Now it’s time to narrow your search. DePaul University’s Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) Associate Director Leslie Chamberlain has a few pointers for students:

“Decide why you’re looking to connect with alumni. If you’re looking to explore a specific field or if there’s a city you’d like to be in, this is going to influence the keywords in your search for connections.”

Once you’ve used a couple of keywords and identified a potential connection, it’s time to actually hit the ‘connect’ button and send a message.

The Ask

This initial message is key to ensuring you get a response. Leslie advises that your message follows this classic, business outline: Them. You. Time-Bound.

Let’s break that down.

Them: Your first line should be a sentence about them, recognizing a particular involvement or position that caught your interest. For example, you could say, “your work as a social media analyst with the American Red Cross looks exciting.”

You: Your next two sentences should introduce you and provide some background. Think of it as a shortened elevator pitch. For example, you might say, “as a current public relations student at DePaul, I’m interested in working in the nonprofit sector. I’ve had the opportunity to take courses where I’ve constructed social media campaigns for companies and I’m looking to expand my knowledge in this sphere.”

Time-Bound: Finally, your last sentence should be time-bound to solidify a time to talk. “Fifteen to twenty minutes is the perfect amount of time to ask for. It’s enough time to get a feel for the person. If you vibe with the connection really well you can always ask for a follow-up meeting and if you don’t then you’re not trapped in a long conversation,” Leslie explained.  For example, you could say, “I would love to chat with you about your experiences as an analyst. Would you be available to talk over the phone for 15-20 minutes sometime in the next two weeks?”

The Follow-Up

Once you’ve sent the message and had the opportunity to talk over the phone, follow up with a simple thank you message.

This thank you should follow the Past. Present. Future. outline. First, acknowledge your previous interaction with a simple line, such as, “thank you for taking time out of your day to discuss your career.”

Next, bring up an insight they mentioned that you’re going to take action on. For example, “I picked up a copy of the branding book you mentioned and I’m looking forward to reading it.”

Finally, if you’ve really hit it off, the future portion of this thank you should be focused on a second meeting. For example, you might ask, “could I reach out to you next month? I’d like to talk to you about this book once I’ve finished it.” If you didn’t quite hit it off, a simple, “I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors,” will work.

Easy as that! Connecting with alumni is a great way to learn more about your industry and develop a mentorship with someone who shares common interests. Curious about other ways that alumni can help you? Check out the Alumni Sharing Knowledge network for more information on connecting with alumni.